When the 1958 Formula One season opened the sport was very different than it had been just six or seven months before. The Le Mans disaster in 1955, which had taken the lives of 77 spectators, had called into question whether motor racing should be outlawed. In react, Switzerland would ban motor racing, a ban which largely exists to this day.
For Enzo Ferrari he was suffering personal and professional trials. In 1956 his son Alfredo (Dino) had died from muscular dystrophy. While in 1957 he was charged with manslaughter by the Italian government after 13 people, manly children, were killed at the Mille Miglia, when Ferrari driver Alonso de Portago crashed into a crowd of spectators. The lawsuit against Ferrari wouldn’t be resolved until 1961, when he was found not guilty.
(Alfredo “Dino” and Enzo Ferrari in 1947)
The 1958 season would open in Argentina in January and finish in Morrocco in October. There were 11 races. The Indianapolis 500 was in 1958 still part of the F1 championship, but as the race has no impact, I will not include it in this story. That will make the championship 10 races. Points were scored from 1st to 5th, with points being 8–6–4–3–2 and drivers could only score from their top six results. The season was as follows:
Round Grand Prix Circuit Date
1 Argentine GP Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, 19 January
2 Monaco GP Monte Carlo 18 May
3 Dutch GP Zandvoort 26 May
4 Belgian GP Spa-Francorchamps 15 June
5 French GP Reims-Gueux 6 July
6 British GP Silverstone 19 July
7 West Germany GP Nürburgring 3 August
8 Portuguese GP Circuito da Boavista 24 August
9 Italian GP Autodromo di Monza 7 September
10 Moroccan GP Ain-Diab Circuit, Casablanca 19 October
The favorite to win the championship was Moss, but the Vanwall was unreliable. Hawthorn in the Ferrari had reliability but not the speed of Moss. The season would be an epic battle.
Race 1 Argentina:
The opening race was in Argentina. As Vanwall had decided to not go to the race and continue to develop their car, Moss would do a one-off for Rob Walker’s privateer Cooper team. Incidentally, Walker was the heir to the Johnny Walker whiskey fortune, and would sponsor may drivers during the 1950’s and 1960’s. For Moss it was the perfect start to the season. He won the race by 2 seconds, with Musso second and Haythorn third. It is also interesting to note that Walkers Cooper was the first rear-engined F1 car to win a race. The points after Argentina were:
|4||Juan Manuel Fangio||4|
Race 2 Monaco
Monaco in 1958 was like today the crown-jewel of the F1 season. In 1958 many teams / drivers would only do that race. For Vanwall the season started here. Moss would be now with the team and be partnered by Brooks and Lewis-Evans. For the second race in a row the Cooper, this time driven by Maurice Trintignant, would win, and the questions got loader, maybe the rear-engined cars were unbeatable. For Ferrari a lot of questions had been answered. The 246 was as solid as a rock, though not as fast. For Vanwall and Cooper their cars were fast but fragile. With two races done it looked like Ferrari was the team to beat.
Bernie Ecclestone at Monaco 1958
Monaco 1958 Results
Drivers’ Championship Standings
Race 3 Netherlands
The Dutch GP was the third race of season. The race would begin to answer the questions of how fast and reliable the Vanwall’s were, and whether Ferrari was really a contender. After the race had finished a clearer picture was emerging. Moss in the Vanwall was the drivers to beat. The Cooper while quick was unreliable and BRM had opted to go with reliability over speed. Ferrari had a revised engine for the next race in Belgium. It would now be a two team fight.
Race 4 Belgium
The forth race of the season was held at Spa. In 1958 Spa at 24 laps was the shortest race of the season. The Ferrari engine upgrades gave the car a lot more speed with no lose of reliability. The race would confirm that it was now a two-team fight, Vanwall against Ferrari.
Brooks with Moss
Even though Brooks won the race, the upgraded Ferrari was now near the Vanwall’s race pace. It was beginning to look like a Moss versus Hawthorn fight for the championship.
Race 5 France
The French GP was the half-way mark of the 1958 season. It was held at Reins and was the highest paying race of the season. Practice confirmed the Ferraris were quick, with Hawthorn and Musso one-two and Collins fourth. Moss could do no better than sixed. For Musso things were desperate. He was deeply in debt and needed the prizemoney to pay off creditors or possibly be arrested.
As the race started the Ferrari’s of Hawthorn and Musso raced off leaving the others will behind. On lap 9 tragedy occurred, Musso lost control of his at the chicane and crashed. Taken to a local hospital he would die two hours later. The championship was now a fight between Hawthorn and Moss.
|3||Wolfgang von Trips||Ferrari||50||4|
|4||Juan Manuel Fangio||Maserati||50||3|
Race 6 Great Britain
As F1 moved to Britain for the 6th race of the season, the championship was becoming clearer. The Ferrari upgrades had made the car reliable, Vanwall was still slightly quicker but the reliability problems were still there.
The race would be an easy win for Ferrari, with Collins winning and Hawthorn second. Moss would suffer yet another DNF. Hawthorn had now caught Moss for the driver’s championship, and things were looking good for Ferrari. Of interest, Bernie Ecclestone had given up driving F1 to become an owners, entering two drivers in his new Connaught-Alta privateer team.
Race 7 West Germany
The West German GP was the 7th race of the season. Held at the Nürburgring, the organizers made the unusual decision to run an F2 race at the same time as the F1 race. The F1 cars would get their starting position separately from the F2 cars. The intent was that the cars would quickly separate and the two different groups wouldn’t bother each other. That was the theory.
As the race started the fears that the cars wouldn’t separate went away, as the F1 raced away. The promoters had dodged a bullet. But on lap 10 disaster struck. Collins went into the Pflanzgarten too quickly. The car hit the guard rails and flipped over. By the time race workers got to the car, Collins was dead. He was the second Ferrari driver to die in a month.
Peter Collins fatal crash
The final results had little impact on the championship. Brooks won with von Trips, who was preplacing Musso, fourth. Winning the F2 race and coming 5th F2 overall was a young driver from New Zealand named Bruce McLaren. Next race was Portugal.
|4||Wolfgang von Trips||Ferrari||15||+6:16.3||3|
Race 8 Portugal
The 8th race of the season was held in Portugal. The race was very controversial. In qualifying both Moss and Hawthorn would post the same qualifying time, which started am argument between Ferrari and Vanwall as to where each driver should start. Then during the race Hawthorn spun off the circuit and appeared to restart his engine facing the oncoming cars. For this he was disqualified. Moss, who had seen Hawthorn spin, went to the stewards and said Hawthorn ever left the circuit. That was enough for the stewards to reinstate Hawthorn’s second place. That honesty would ultimately cost Moss the championship. Of not, the F2 race was won by a young driver from New Zealand named Bruce McLaren.
Hawthorn left 24, Moss right 2.
|2||24||Mike Hawthorn||Ferrari||50||+ 5:12.75||2||71|
|3||6||Stuart Lewis-Evans||Vanwall||49||+ 1 Lap||3||4|
|4||8||Jean Behra||BRM||49||+ 1 Lap||4||3|
|5||22||Wolfgang von Trips||Ferrari||49||+ 1 Lap||6||2|
|1||Mike Hawthorn||36 (37)|
Race 9 Italy Monza
The ninth race of the season was the Italian GP held at Monza. The Vanwall’s of Moss and Brooks qualified 1-2, and the Ferrari of Hawthorn 3rd. The race itself had the bizarre event of the Scuderia Centro Sud Maserati of Shelby having an engine failure on the first lap to be replaced by Gregory in the spare car. Gregory would finish 4th and keep the position but not score any points. The race itself was following a familiar pattern, with Moss failing to finish and Hawthorn coming second. The title would be settled in the last race in Morrocco.
|2||14||Mike Hawthorn||Ferrari||70||+ 24.2||3||6|
|3||18||Phil Hill||Ferrari||70||+ 28.3||7||51|
|Maserati||69||+ 1 Lap||11||02|
|5||6||Roy Salvadori||Cooper–Climax||62||+ 8 Laps||14||2|
|1||Mike Hawthorn||40 (43)|
Race 10 Morocco
The final race of the season was the Moroccan GP. It was to be the only F1 race held in Morocco.
Qualifying save the Ferrari of Hawthorn take pole and Moss second. There were 3 Ferrari’s and 3 Vanwall’s in the top seven. Only Behra in the BRM, who qualified 4th, was close. The race would be similar to West Germany where F2 cars would also be racing. As the race started Moss quickly took the read. Hawthorn was content to sit in season as that was all be needed to win the drivers championship. On lap 41 tragedy for Vanwall. Lewis-Evans crashed and his car burst into flames. He was taken from the car with severe burns and airlifted to London. He was to die six days later.
Hawthorn drove the car to an easy second, enough to win the championship. Moss who won the race, would be runner up again. Once the race was over, Hawthorn who had been diagnosed with kidney disease, retired. Tragically, just three months after winning the F1 championship, Hawthorn would be killed in a motor accident when racing his friend on a city street outside London.
Mike Hawthorn’s fatal crash
The 1958 F1 season was a seminal point for the sport. The front-engine cars would win their last title. The new world in F1 was aerodynamics. Enzo Ferrari was a genius but his belief that horsepower was key was proven wrong by the British teams, like Lotus and Brabham, the age of aerodynamics has arrived.